Stoke-on-Trent City Council pledges £100,000 for community and voluntary organisations

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Stoke-on-Trent City Council has pledged £100,000 of financial support to community groups and voluntary organisations who are providing critical support to those impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) living in the city.

The money will be available for community groups and charities to bid into to help them continue to support those who need it most during the pandemic. It will also help to ensure that those organisations that have seen usual funding or fundraising reduce are still able to access additional financial support.

The government has recently announced an allocation of £750m to support charities responding to the crisis in the UK.  £370m will go to small and medium-sized charities, channelled through the National Lottery Community Fund and other organisations.  It will support locally-focused charities doing most during the outbreak.  Another £360m will be allocated to charities providing essential services and supporting people. At this stage it is unclear how much of this funding will be allocated to Stoke-on-Trent and how any funding would be distributed across the sector.               

Groups or organisations who are providing support to residents in the city affected by Covid-19 can apply for a grant to fund service delivery, or for help with cashflow issues in advance of funding being allocated by central government. Ensuring that our older and vulnerable residents have the support they need, whilst they are following the Government’s instruction to Stay At Home and self-isolate, is vitally important. Through the joint #StokeonTrentTogether initiative with VAST, 1000’s of people in the city have already been helped. The £100,000 funding will now allow even more community-delivered support to be put in place.

In Stoke-on-Trent, there are 371 registered charities and an estimated further 3000 voluntary or community organisations. These organisations and groups employ staff and provide volunteering opportunities, as well as contributing to the local economy.

Cllr Abi Brown, Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “In such challenging times, the amazing response from our community and voluntary sector to support those most in need has been superb. #StokeonTrentTogether has been incredibly successful and we know it’s getting to the people who need it the most. At the same time, we know the majority of voluntary sector organisations have been impacted directly themselves by Covid-19; whether that is through reduced income, the reduced ability to deliver public sector contracts or limited support through the national employer schemes.

“While a number of funding options are already available, we wanted to do something specifically for these groups who are making such a huge contribution to help people in our city. 33% of registered charities in Stoke-on-Trent have a turnover of less than £10,000 p.a. This new funding pot means even more people in the city can be helped.”

Acting Chief Executive/Finance Director Lisa Healings for VAST said: “Through the Stoke-on-Trent Together initiative, the voluntary sector has been working closely with the council to help people across Stoke-on-Trent through the impact of Covid-19.  It is at times of crisis like this that the benefits of their work is plain to see, but it’s also a tough time for a number of charities and voluntary groups right now, with many losing self-generated income and the chance to carry out fundraising activities. At VAST we are pleased to hear that a new fund is being made available in the city to help our members carry on doing what they do best.”

Cllr Brown continued: “Like the business support funding, we’ve aimed to make applications as easy as possible so bids can be made by just filling in a simple form on-line. We’re going to review support on an ongoing basis and will continually review what we do in this ever-changing situation. Primarily we just want to make sure the funding gets quickly to those people who need it the most.”

There is no maximum limit for loan or grant applications although bids for more than £3,000 will require further evidence and be subject to additional scrutiny and ongoing monitoring. Some organisations that already receive city council funding will also be able to redirect unspent funds to support delivery of COVID-19 related support services. In addition, 44 council members are able to divert £1,700 of their ward budgets to support individuals or groups in their local area who are being impacted by Covid-19.

The closing date for applications is 4pm on Friday 1st May. Responses to bids will be given as soon as possible after 1 May. Applications can be made at: https://www.stoke.gov.uk/voluntaryfund

In other city council news, following updated guidance from government, the city council has decided to reopen Carmountside on Saturday and Sunday and on public bank holidays during May between 8am and 5pm to enable residents to visit the cemetery to pay their respects to their loved ones.

People are asked to maintain social distancing at all times and are being reminded not to participate in any activities not linked to the bereavement process such as dog walking or general exercise at Carmountside. 

District cemeteries have remained open during the outbreak, with guidance notices on social distancing and regular monitoring of teams.

Additionally following consultation with the Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and group party leaders, as a result of the pandemic Annual Council will not take place in May but is instead scheduled for Thursday 10th September at 11:00am.  As a result, the terms of office for Lord Mayor and Deputy and the appointments of chairs / vice chairs to committees, committee membership and outside bodies have been extended until that date. 

Finally, while residents might not be able to visit the city's fantastic museums and attractions at the moment, that doesn't mean they can’t see them as a new Virtual Stoke resource has been introduced.

Whether it's exploring the fascinating objects in the city’s, taking a virtual walk through galleries, watching videos, or taking part in home activities, the initiative led by the city council’s Visit Stoke tourism team lets people still enjoy a little bit of Stoke-on-Trent during the lockdown. The Virtual Stoke website is at https://www.visitstoke.co.uk/ideas-and-inspirations/visit-virtual-stoke. More virtual content from attractions across the city will be added at regular points.

For more information and advice on coronavirus (Covid-19) please visit Public Health England: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/ and the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated.

For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels. Residents can sign up to receive regular coronavirus updates at www.stoke.gov.uk/stayconnected and clicking coronavirus.